This will be a quickie. I almost didn’t blog about it, but was flipping through old pictures and though “wow, that looks gorgeous! Wait, was that Earl? Damn!” and here we are. This was way back on 6/19/2015, thank you wta.org for keeping my trip report because I couldn’t remember!
- Distance: 8 miles round trip
- Elevation: 3900ft gain, 7000ft highest point (Earl)
- Weather: 50’s and sunny
- Commute from Seattle: 2:30 without traffic
- Did I Trip: No but I nearly fell over when a pika shrieked at me
Okay, so the main reason I wasn’t going to post about this was because it felt like… not a failure, but like a below average day. I intended to run and scramble the entire ridgeline from Earl to Beanto Mary and Judi, maybe add Volcanic Neck and Devil’s Head in there. But when I got there, I just felt lousy. My legs felt like lead, my head wasn’t in the game, meh. So I headed up to Earl and figured I’d play it by ear.
The trail along the creek was very different from the last time I was here. Way more green, more plants, and the stream was lower, so I didn’t nearly lose one of my poles to it like my trip up to Bean Peak. At the first clearing, I ran into a group who asked me if this was the basin with the meadows. I laughed and said no, and looking relieved one woman said good, this was a little underwhelming! They asked how far the basin was (a little under a mile) and decided to continue on. I told them not to worry, the meadows at the basin were much prettier. I gave them quick directions (go left when you cross the creek for the second time!) so they wouldn’t accidentally end up on Earl. I know they made it, because when I was up on the ridge between Earl and Bean, I could hear a few of the girls laughing and shouting.
To reiterate, when you cross the creek towards the end of the trail, the path to the left takes you up to Bean Creek Basin, and the path to the right takes you up to Earl. I went right. The trail switchbacks up the slope gradually, dotted with horse poop if anyone needs compost material. It’s mostly under tree cover until the ridge, but you get a few sneak peaks of Stuart slowly rising above Bean as you gain elevation. When you reach the saddle, don’t be misled, Earl is still a solid half mile or so away. Hang left and follow the ridge to the summit, which is more of a hike than a scramble.
Views are awesome. I can see why this peak is so popular. The entire Stuart range is spread out below you, and everything between you and Stuart has a red tint, which makes Stuart’s dark granite look quite dramatic. I sat down to have a snack, and greeted a few older ladies who were at the top, who were full of recommendations for hikes and showered me with compliments about how I was hiking alone (with the “be careful!” disclaimers). Hell, if I’m still hiking Earl at that age, I’ll consider myself a success. They knew so much!
They turned around to head down before I did, which is good because they might have thought I was nuts for going to scramble from Earl to Bean. Alone. But it didn’t look that bad, and I knew it could be done. I knew there were some small cliffs directly below me, so I dropped down to the Bean Creek Basin side just a bit to traverse to the beginning of the ridge just below the cliffs. That mean some light class II scrambling, some veggie belays, some scree slopes, and plenty of checking how close to the cliffs I was. Eventually, I popped out along the ridge. Woo! Time to run.
There’s nothing like running along a ridgeline. Especially one where the Stuart range is your backdrop. There were a few rocky sections to scramble over once in a while, but there’s a faint boot path along the dusty sections. Coming up to Bean, I ended up on a class 3+ scramble, so you can definitely find an easier route but you know what, I was enjoying myself. Until I met the damn pika. Halfway through maneuvering myself up a short (~9ft) chimney, I hear some scuttling followed by a shriek. I literally thought someone had fallen and gotten injured, or some paranormal mummy was coming after me (I never said my fears were rational). I froze and whipped around to see a Pika staring angrily. Okay, you tiny bastard, I’ll hurry up just don’t do that again. I popped over the top of the chimney and quickly got out of sight of the pika. Freaking rodent. I may be a wimp but I’ll take you.
I hopped up to Bean Peak to soak in the views again. Summit register was nice and dry this time around, so I signed it and had another snack. I debated continuing on to either Mary/Judi or Volcanic Neck/Devil’s Head, but was feeling lethargic and lazy, so I just went back down to the basin. It was totally different from when I was there last time (there was snow last time!) but I eventually intersected the trail after plenty of farting around off trail (you can see where you’re going, so it’s not that bad, just don’t kill all the flowers) and started running again.
I came across the most gorgeous secret patch of flowers while I was at it. Maybe a half mile from the Bean Creek Basin trail, towards Bean Peak. I couldn’t believe the colors. Red, yellow, purple, green, all in one patch. I just want to roll all over it. But then they’d die, so I settled for a few pictures, and a snapchat to make sure everyone knew how beautiful my life is. After that, I continued back along the trail, and was back at the car pretty quickly. The few miles back are a very, very gradual downhill (uphill when you’re starting) so it was both quick and easy on the knees. Yes!
Back at the car I again debated a second hike. I had all day, and I had only used up a few hours. Nah, still lazy. Lazy day. But you know what? If scrambling from Earl to Bean Peak is my lazy day, I have a pretty good life. And the mountains will all be there in the future, so I’ll tackle that full ridgeline someday.
Note: My summit panoramas from last time I went up Bean and from this time are nearly identical. Check out last time if you want a late-April/mid-June comparison. Some snow vs no snow!